On Tuesday, a coalition of business leaders called on the state’s congressional delegation to pass a ban on mining near Yellowstone National Park by the end of this year. While Montana’s senators and lone congressman all support a ban, passing a bill probably won’t happen by the coalition’s deadline.
The Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition called on Montana’s delegation to hitch The Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act to ‘must-pass’ legislation this December.
“The act would permanently remove public lands immediately north of Yellowstone National Park from future mining activity,” says Dale Sexton, a founding member of the coalition.
The bill was introduced by Democratic Senator Jon Tester earlier this year, but then it stalled in a senate committee. The coalition is now asking Senator Steve Daines to back the bill and for Congressman Greg Gianforte to introduce identical legislation in the U.S. House. Both Republicans say they support a permanent ban on mining near the park but they aren’t ready to hitch their wagons to Tester’s bill just yet.
“I intend to introduce legislation, but this issue is too important to simply introduce legislation and say the work is done," says Gianforte in an audio statement. "A bill providing a permanent moratorium must have a path forward to pass the House of Representatives and ultimately be enacted into law.”
A spokesperson for Daines says the senator is working to “gain support for an approach that will secure the outcomes, not just the headlines, Montanans want to preserve access and protect our public lands.”
Sexton says while there’s talk of Daines introducing his own legislation before the Senate, Tester’s bill has been vetted.
“I think the outcome that we’re all looking for here is the permanent retirement of the prospect of having any mining on the doorstep of Yellowstone National Park," he says. "The Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act does exactly that. It’s not about securing headlines. It’s about protecting the legacy and the landscape of southwest Montana.”
In a statement, Tester’s office says the senator will “keep pushing his bill until it is across the finish line. And he encourages the rest of Montana’s congressional delegation to join Montanans in supporting this simple, bipartisan bill -- with no strings attached.”
Earlier this month, a Canadian mining company said it had secured foreign investments intended to fuel exploratory mining near Yellowstone as soon as next summer.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled Dale Sexton's last name. It is Sexton, not Saxon. YPR regrets the error.